Johnny B. Goode

Earlier this year I asked who wanted to join Rachel in taking piano lessons. Isaac did; or rather, he wants to play drums and his mean mom said he had to learn piano first. Nathan, however, asked if he could take guitar lessons. It took awhile to find a teacher but he started lessons a couple weeks ago and has been practicing daily. Sometimes several times a day. . .



Is anyone surprised that he chose the blue guitar? No, I thought not!

Eight is great

This past weekend we celebrated Daniel’s 8th birthday. He had been looking forward to it all summer, always double checking to make sure Caleb would be able to come home for his party. Caleb was a little late, but he made it.

Big bubby and little bubby

Caleb and Daniel

He asked for homemade calzone for his birthday dinner with corn on the side. I asked if he wanted green beans too and at first he said no, but then he said I could fix green beans if other people wanted them. For a little guy, he’s really good at thinking about what others want or need.

Birthday boy!

Rachel & Daniel

While we were waiting for Caleb and I was cleaning up the kitchen, the kids decided to play Settlers of Catan. I managed to take a picture before male competitiveness caused the game to end prematurely. . .a downside of life with boys.

Game time.

Nathan, Isaac, Rachel, and Daniel.

For the first time Daniel was able to read his own birthday cards, although the cursive signatures were a bit of a problem. Still, he was pleased with himself.

He's a reader now!

Daniel and Nathan.

Some of his older siblings wrapped up outgrown treasures for him; he also received new clothes, toys, and spending money.

Isaac and Daniel

Isaac and Daniel

Singing in the rain.

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Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo

A couple years ago I discovered Sewaholic Patterns, which are designed specifically for my body type (pear). They’re a bit pricey as patterns go, but I have slowly collected my favorite styles when I have birthday money or luck into a sale. I love both that I don’t have to grade a pattern up three sizes between the shoulders and the hips and that the patterns are designed to be flattering to my shape.

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I’m singing in the rain Just singing in the rain What a glorious feelin’ I’m happy again

This past winter I ordered the Minoru Jacket pattern (and fabric) with my birthday money. I used a lightweight wool interlined with Thinsulate in the body and flannel in the sleeves, so I made a size larger than my regular size. That turned out well enough that when I found navy floral fabric labeled as “water resistant cotton” in the spring, I immediately placed an order. And then summer came and I forgot about sewing a jacket. And even though I’ve sewn three or four lined jackets over the years, there is no way around the fact that it is a lengthy project. But September came and suddenly a raincoat sounded worth the effort again. I chose a lining fabric from my stash, exchanged the zipper for the correct length, and I was ready to sew!

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I’m laughing at clouds So dark up above The sun’s in my heart And I’m ready for love

While the printed Sewaholic instructions are more than adequate for seamstresses with experience, I like to check the blog for a sew along or tutorials before I begin. Especially for a more involved project like the jacket pattern, I find the photographs and additional tips to be useful. The hood that stores in the collar was a bit confusing in line drawings, and the sew along also includes instructions for attaching the lining to the cuff seam by machine.

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Let the stormy clouds chase Everyone from the place Come on with the rain I’ve a smile on my face

I used dark red rayon Ambience lining from my stash; I didn’t realize it until I was done sewing, but the color it matches my rain boots perfectly! However, let it be noted that it’s difficult to take a picture showing the lining of your jacket without looking like you’re selling knock off watches. . .ahem. However, if you stop laughing you might notice the handy hidden pockets. On my wool coat, I added exterior pockets. I opted not to do that on this coat, which I may regret. However, the inseam pockets on my wool coat gap a little and I didn’t want patch pockets.

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I walk down the lane With a happy refrain Just singin’, Singin’ in the rain.


Often when someone first learns that we homeschool, they ask me:

Is that hard?

Or perhaps:

Isn’t it a lot of work?



It is work. Some days it’s hard work. Some days it’s really hard work. But so is. . .well, pretty much everything. . .that’s worth doing. Staying married? Hard. Raising kids? Hard. The list goes on: taking care of your health, choosing a vocation, watching loved ones age, dealing with difficult people, making financial ends meet, moving cross country. Life is hard work. All of it. And yet. . .the very same things that make life hard are the things that fill it with joy. Homeschooling is no different. It means adding the responsibilities of teaching to the other duties of motherhood. It also means spending my days with my most favorite people, guiding and watching as they grow and learn.

But that’s too much to say to a new acquaintance. So I usually laugh and tell them that it’s easier than getting six (umm. . .five) kids up and out the door and to the bus stop at zero-dark-early every morning!

Poco a poco

Little by little. . .I shared yesterday about my major decluttering spree, but it will take a lot of little steps to ensure I don’t need to do that again. Ever. Because the fun of decluttering is in the results: the actual process is a lot of hard work! It also creates a lot of chaos unless you are able to make daily drops at a thrift store. I had to wait until I was done so that we could borrow a pick up truck, so for about six weeks I lived with a growing pile of boxes and “stuff” in my living room.

While decluttering (and dealing with our budget), I started adding some minimalist blogs to my feed. It’s always kind of funny to realize that what feels normal to me is a current “thing.” This week’s post on Becoming Minimalist, 7 Habits for a Clutter-Free Home, has been useful to me in thinking about how to make sure my home remains low on the clutter-meter. Clutter-free isn’t going to happen unless the rest of the family joins me! :) The first three habits (dealing with mail, washing dishes, and making bed) and the seventh (minimizing overfilled spaces) are already ingrained habits; the fourth (clear kitchen counters) has become a goal since finishing my decluttering. That leaves me the fifth and sixth as goals: a nightly tidying, and not procrastinating on tasks that will take me less than two minutes.

Clutter has bothered me for as long as I can remember, though my mother might tell you otherwise! The happy ending to this tale is that I am learning how to control the clutter (and banish as much as I can) rather than submit to the helpless feeling that the clutter is controlling me. The kids’ messes are still there, but I have created  peaceful corners in my home where I can rest my eyes and not feel overwhelmed. Hooray!


Clutter, that is! My main project for this summer was to do a major decluttering a la Marie Kondo’s book. I am happy to report that I finished sorting through the last category over the weekend, and that Monday night Larry delivered a large load of STUFF to Goodwill. The only thing they wouldn’t accept was the portable crib; I hadn’t realized they didn’t have baby things because it’s been a very long time since we shopped for any baby paraphernalia. And to be honest, this particular crib is as old as Caleb, so I’m not even sure if anyone should be using it. I doubt they will accept it at Once Upon a Child; I may list it on Craigslist, or maybe it should head to the dumpster. . .once the dumpster has been emptied: it’s a little fuller than usual this month! ;)

Visitors to our home may not notice the difference (unless they were here while the boxes were piling up on one side of the living room!). The most visible weeding project was the bookshelves, but we still have plenty of books left. Most of the other weeding was of items stored in closets. We have a lot of closets for storage, but why store pictures I’m never going to hang on my wall? items we have outgrown (portable crib) or never really used in the first place (tripod)? fabric I no longer love enough to sew?

Ah yes. . .the fabric closet. I learned two lessons working on that one. The first is that I need to let go of more remnants. I hate it when there’s a half yard left after I cut out my garment, but honestly what am I going to do with a half yard length of garment fabric? Gone are the days when I could make the kids a shirt or pants from a half yard! The second is that even if something is a good buy, how much do I reasonably need? I have no idea why I ever thought a full roll of 3/4″ beige Velcro was a good idea (and it’s actually two rolls: a roll of hooks, a roll of loops); and while I use a lot of twill tape for stabilizing, 800 yard spools (one black, one white) is excessive. In both cases I pulled off a reasonable amount to keep and put the rest in the out pile. Hopefully someone else can make better use of those things.

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Fabric closet

I’ll leave you with a picture of the upstairs hallway closet. . .I don’t need it as a linen closet because both bathrooms also have large closets. Until last week, this closet was full to overflowing with fabrics and notions. My sewing supplies are limited to the left side now and the right side is for sleeping bags and air mattress. This means that we no longer need to climb over sleeping bags to reach the boxes of seasonal decorations in the closet under the stairs–hooray!

Fresh Tomato and Basil Pasta

Need an easy supper for a hot summer day? This recipe is what you need This is also my first attempt at using Plan to Eat for sharing recipes on my blog, so let me know if it doesn’t come through properly. (Mini commercial: Plan to Eat has greatly simplified my menu making for about three years now. If you’re curious, the first 30 days are always free. :) )

Print Recipe

Fresh Tomato and Basil Pasta

Source: Simply in Season p. 124

Serves: 6


  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 pounds tomoatoes chopped, seeded, and drained
  • 12 cup basil fresh
  • 14 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1 pound pasta


  1. Combine garlic, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and salt. Let stand at room temperature 1-2 hours.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Combine hot pasta and sauce. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

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Father’s Day

Yesterday I shared a picture of my daddy on Facebook; today I thought I’d share a few pictures of the daddy of my children. No particular order, no rhyme or reason beyond sticking with pictures already on my computer. ;)

Father's Day 2015

Cooking on his new-to-us grill, Father’s Day 2015

Cradling our firstborn, December 1996

Cradling Caleb, our firstborn, December 1996


Wrestling with Nathan & Isaac, 2008


Daddy’s pretty pink princess (and two princes), February 2000.

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Takes a real man to wear a dress to work! April 2014


Opening all the silly birthday gifts kids give, March 2011


The smiling face across from me at every meal, Thanksgiving 2013

The Graduate

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Not the movie, mind you, I’ve never seen it. I’m talking about our firstborn and therefore our first graduate.

May 24, 2015

May 24, 2015

I’m sorry the party planning updates ended as abruptly as they began, but things got busier and crazier and blogging didn’t happen. Before or after: it’s been nearly a month since graduation. Wow! Time flies.

Three little monkeys. . .brothers. . .monkeys. . .

Three little monkeys. . .brothers. . .monkeys. . .

I still feel the need to pinch myself. And I find myself looking over my shoulder, waiting for Someone Official to tell me I did it all wrong and he can’t actually graduate. So far, so good. He has been accepted to Bethany Lutheran, where he plans to play soccer and study elementary education. I thought I would start breathing again once he was registered for classes, but that milestone has come and gone and he has gone to Wyoming for the summer (working at Scout camp again) and I’m still afraid I forgot to do Something Very Important.

the kitchen crew

Kitchen crew

But back to graduation, Mom and Dad arrived on Thursday. Mom joined me in working like a mad woman on Friday & Saturday.

Eight cheesecakes!

Eight cheesecakes!

On Sunday we had a short prayer service at church and gave him his diploma, followed by an open house at the parsonage.

Party time!

Party time!

It was a crazy rainy afternoon! I’m glad we had it at home although I’ve made oodles of notes for next time.

People, people everywhere.

So many people in the kitchen! Mom & I wait to see what needs refilling.

Larry greeting guests

Larry greeting guests

The dining room table was pulled out and we set up more tables in the basement. I had meant to set up tables outside, but with the rain we ended up with a couple tables in the garage instead.

Caleb shows off his memorabilia from sports, 4-H, Scouts, and more.

Caleb shows off his memorabilia from sports, 4-H, Scouts, and more.

After most of the guests left, the church secretary Donna insisted on helping us clean up the kitchen. That was much appreciated! She also stayed to watch Caleb open his gifts.

Caleb & Daniel


Then Caleb headed off the to lock in at the local high school where he had attended classes this past year. . .and the rest of us fell into our respective beds!